Over the past year, Rina Sawayama and Elton John have forged a close friendship after John named SAWAYAMA his favorite album of 2020. Now, the duo has come together to reimagine “Chosen Family,” Sawayama’s powerful ballad that is all about the love and acceptance found within the LGBTQIA+ community.
For the new rendition, John incorporated his iconic piano skills and distinct vocals to elevate the emotional song to a whole new level.
On April 14, Sawayama and John officially premiered their reimagined version of “Chosen Family” exclusively on Zane Lowe’s show on Apple Music. Soon after, the captivating video for the collaboration also made its debut. For the visual, Sawayama and John kept things simple. In front of a soft blue backdrop, John comfortably sits at the piano with his signature sunglasses.
While standing next to John, Sawayama opens up the collaboration by belting the telling lyrics of “Chosen Family” back to him. Soon after, John joins in with Sawayama, singing the harmonies in the chorus before completely taking over on the second verse.
The artists soon layer their unmistakable vocals on top of each other, creating a melodic blend of sounds that showcases their emotional connection to “Chosen Family” as well as the vulnerable lyrics that make up the song.
The “Chosen Family” video is available to watch below.
“Chosen Family” originally appears on Sawayama’s 2020 full-length album SAWAYAMA. The track, which was written by Sawayama, Danny L. Harle and Jonny Lattimer, highlights the obstacles many of those in the LGBTQIA+ community overcome after coming out to their family and friends.
John has been a major influence on Sawayama over the years. As a result, teaming up with him to reimagine the powerful track was a true privilege.
“It was such a joy and honor to rework ‘Chosen Family’ with the legendary Elton John,” Sawayama says in a press release. “The song means so much to both of us and recording it together was such a special experience I will never forget. I got shivers when I heard his voice through the monitor and became emotional when he added the piano parts. Elton has been such a huge supporter from before the album, and when we finally met to record this song we clicked from the get-go. I hope people can hear the magic!”
For John, he has been a fan of Sawayama since the moment he first came across her music. After hearing “Comme Des Garçons (Like The Boys)” for his Apple Music podcast Rocket Hour, John reached out to Sawayama. Since then, the two have become very close friends.
“When I was sent ‘Comme Des Garçons’ for my Rocket Hour show, I stopped in my tracks and thought, ‘Who is this?’ It just blew me away from the first listen,” John says in a press release. “We’ve since become friends and it’s such a huge honor and a genuine thrill to be asked to duet with Rina.”
John goes on to say that Sawayama is a true force in music. In fact, he believes she is one of the most original and fascinating artists out there right now.
“She is just an extraordinary talent,” John says in a press release. “Rina doesn’t just represent the cross-cultural mix of inspiration from which the best music always thrives, but a generation who have grown up with the internet and the entire history of music at their fingertips and mix together whatever they please with real love and understanding, unconstrained by old ideas of genre or boundary. To my mind, she’s the brightest embodiment of this: a brilliant, confidence-oozing, endlessly fascinating songwriter and performer.”
During a recent interview with The New York Times, both John and Sawayama opened up about how their “Chosen Family” collaboration came to be. After getting to know each other over the phone amid the global pandemic, they eventually met to record the new rendition. Under strict health and safety protocols, Sawayama and John recorded the collab in a London studio this past December.
For John specifically, “Chosen Family” is a song that quickly resonated with him. In fact, he often finds himself singing his own version of the song to his kids.
“The lyrical content is so beautiful,” John says during the New York Times interview. “There were so many brutal things going on in the world when the record came out, especially in America yet it made me feel as if all would be OK. I would sing it around the house and I changed the lyrics to ‘frozen family.’ I sang with my kids in the morning, ‘You’re my frozen family/Just a tiny little fish finger.’”
Sawayama further says that “Chosen Family” is truly a celebration of the LGBTQIA+ community. Ultimately, she hopes that listeners feel represented in the song and identify their own life journey and experiences in the lyrics.
“I really wanted to write a genuine song, something about celebration,” she tells John during the New York Times interview. “And something specific to the queer community. The people who look after each other so much when they’ve gone through so much themselves. The whole song is meant to be a message from a safe space.”
Later this year, Sawayama is planning to hit the road for a string of headlining shows. Her North American tour is set to kick off Sept. 28 at the Great American Music Hall in San Francisco. Additionally, she’ll be performing in Manchester, London, Leeds and more during her U.K. tour this November.
Rina Sawayama tour dates
09/28 – San Francisco, CA @ Great American Music Hall
09/29 – San Francisco, CA @ Great American Music Hall
10/05 – Portland, OR @ Holocene
10/06 – Seattle, WA @ Washington Hall
10/12 – Denver, CO @ Globe Hall
10/13 – Denver, CO @ Globe Hall
10/15 – Minneapolis, MN @ Fine Line
10/16 – Chicago, IL @ Bottom Lounge
10/18 – Toronto, ON @ The Danforth Music Hall
10/19 – Montreal, QC – Theatre Corona
10/21 – Boston, MA @ Royale
10/22 – Washington, DC @ Union Stage
10/23 – Philadelphia, PA @ The Foundry
10/24 – Brooklyn, NY @ Brooklyn Steel
10/25 – Brooklyn, NY @ Brooklyn Steel
11/08 – Dublin, IE @ The Academy
11/09 – Manchester, UK @ Albert Hall
11/11 – Leeds, UK @ Beckett Students’ Union
11/13 – Glasgow, UK @ SWG3 TV Studio
11/15 – Birmingham, UK @ O2 Institute Birmingham
11/16 – London, UK @ Electric Brixton
11/17 – London, UK @ Roundhouse
Sawayama is among the diverse group of artists featured in Alternative Press’ 100 Artists You Need To Know issue. The extensive list includes an array of acts who are redefining landscapes in genres across the music industry. From alt-rock to metal, indie and punk, the mighty set of talented musicians includes Maggie Lindemann, Bad Omens and Chase Atlantic among others.
What are your reactions to Rina Sawayama and Elton John’s “Chosen Family” duet? Let us know in the comments below.